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Football
To shake or not to shake
After Luis Suarez's farcical refusal to shake the hand of Patrice Evra, is it time to abandon the pre-match handshake?
Last Modified: 13 Feb 2012 16:20
Game, what game? All eyes were on Luis Suarez and Patrice Evra at Old Trafford [GETTY]

They say a handshake can tell you everything about a person; a centuries-old custom that demonstrates trust, balance, and equality. A symbol of peace, conveying that the opponent holds no weapons.

But what if your most lethal weapons are your feet and your opponent in question does not want to convey peace and regards you as the enemy. Should the handshake still be enacted?

The aftermath of the Luis Suarez non-handshake to Patrice Evra in the English Premier League showdown between Manchester United and Liverpool on Saturday raises an interesting debate of whether this ceremony of sportsmanship should be removed from the beginning of football matches all together.

United and Liverpool matches have historically been fiercely contested affairs, but the media frenzy surrounding this one was at an all-time high.

Much of the build-up centred on the two individuals who came face-to-face for the first time since their much publicised spat.

Sensing tensions could boil over, both teams sent out strong messages urging fans and players to keep calm and emphasising that both players would shake hands with a view to finally putting the matter to bed.

Never had a pre-match handshake garnered so much publicity or was anticipated with such tension, even more so than the actual match itself. However those who were expecting the two players to let bygones-be-bygones were in for a rude awakening.

Battle lines

While Patrice Evra may have decided to put his differences aside and look to put his hand out in a statement-making gesture, Luis Suarez had other ideas and was not ready to play ball. Still en-guard and ready to do battle, the Uruguayan was not prepared to lower his weapon just yet.

The battle lines were firmly drawn and tone of the match set. Unsavoury scenes witnessed during the tunnel at half time and at the final whistle - where players from both sides were restrained by stewards – will result in the match being remembered for Suarez's pre-meditated and callous snub, not Wayne Rooney's two goals during United’s 2-1 victory.

What followed after was a thorough post-match analysis of the handshake. Super slow-motion replays were run over and over again with commentators, experts and pundits all offering their view and trying their hardest to pinpoint exactly what had happened, just in case the viewer had missed it.

Video of the incident went viral on social networking sites such as Youtube, Twitter and Facebook, allowing fans to provide their own interpretations and analysis.

Football became secondary and not for the first time this season.

Earlier this month, the English Football Association decided to pull the plug on the pre-match handshake during the FA Cup match between Chelsea and QPR after it was reported that players from QPR would snub John Terry, who is facing trial for allegedly racially abusing defender Anton Ferdinand.

Sensing bad feeling between the two sides the FA were quick to abandon it all together.

Stunt

Since its introduction into English football, the customary handshake - which is supposed to symbolise good-will and sportsmanship - has always been viewed as Champions League rip-off and more as a PR stunt than anything else.

Numerous cases involving high-profile players has diverted attention away from the game and surely it is time that the Premier League abolish this gimmick, which does not hold much meaning or significance in a high pressure dog-eat-dog footballing culture.

Farcical scenes like those witnessed at Old Trafford on Saturday reaffirm the old adage that if something is done without good intention or meaning it is pointless in doing it.

If it is insincere and done without feeling it is meaningless. You could argue it makes more sense to shake hands at the end of the game, which would be sincere.

"This is not to say the handshake does not hold significant meaning - it does, but only if both parties have mutual respect and appreciation for one another. "

This is not to say the handshake does not hold significant meaning - it does, but only if both parties have mutual respect and appreciation for one another.

Luis Suarez's dismissive approach to the handshake resulted in an embarrassing situation for his club who had supported him unequivocally throughout his eight-game ban.

Liverpool manager Kenny Dalglish, Managing Director Ian Ayre and Suarez himself, all released statements yesterday apologising for the events that took place during and after the game on Saturday and their subsequent roles in it.

The handshake - a sign to demonstrate that the opponent has no weapons - is now being used for that very reason.

In an act of one-upmanship, rivals now see fit to deploy it as an arsenal to humiliate and ridicule their opponents and it is for that very reason why it needs to abandoned all together.

A season which is already being remembered for all the wrong reasons cannot afford to be seen to make any more costly blunders.

Asam Shah is a Digital Journalist, based in the UK. You can contact him on asamshah@gmail.com or follow him on Twitter @AsamPlusONE

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